Colorado Springs officials are asking voters if the city can retain up to $20 million beyond the cap placed on revenues by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, to create a wildfire mitigation and prevention program.
The program would be citywide and could include the physical removal of brush, for example, as well as education and evacuation planning. It could also extend to areas outside the city limits that could have a direct impact on Colorado Springs, like partnering with the National Forest Service on the west side of the city.
With the funds, the city would create an advisory committee that would work with the Colorado Springs Fire Department to identify projects, and each year the program could spend up to 5 percent of the balance of the fund. Fire Chief Randy Royal said if the measure passes, they could double or triple the amount of work they're already doing annually.
Critics say risk levels vary depending on where one lives in the city. The west side of the city, for example, is the dominant part of the wildland-urban interface, or WUI, and the people who live there should foot the bill for wildfire mitigation.
The wildland-urban interface does stretch into north-central Colorado Springs and includes Palmer Park. City leaders also point to Corral Bluffs east of the city and neighborhoods like Pulpit Rock and Erindale as danger zones. They also say that wildfires can impact people who work in these areas, regardless of whether or not they live there, and that the economic impact of a large wildfire can affect the whole city.
More from the 2021 Colorado election:
You want to know what is really going on in Southern Colorado these days. We have got just the thing for people like you: the KRCC Weekly Digest. Sign up here and we will see you in your email inbox soon!